Do you know your Shot Process?

by Jim Newsome

One of the first things I ask any athlete with whom I work is a deceptively simple, but utterly fundamental, question – what is your shot process?

The shot process is the series of individual steps that you take from the initial movement of raising the pistol to the moment when the pistol returns to the bench. It’s an important question to ask because a shot process needs to be consistent, no matter what your individual style is. It’s an entertaining question because quite often the answer is, ‘Err, I lift the gun, look at the sights and pull the trigger’.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it is entirely superficial and a bit like telling someone that you drive a car by starting the engine, then driving, then getting out of the car. If you break the procedure of taking a shot into individual steps then you can start to discover whether your process is consistent and whether it is fit for purpose.

What are those steps? For most people they look like this:

  1. The preparation phase
  2. The lift
  3. The descent
  4. The hold
  5. The release
  6. The follow-through
  7. The descent

And so at each stage you should be able to answer the questions below:

  • What am I thinking?
  • What is my body doing?
  • How am I breathing?
  • Where am I looking and with what intensity?

To give you an example, this is an outline shot process from a former international pistol shooter:

  1. Take grip correctly and settle into position
  2. Deep stomach breath to clear mind and lower centre of gravity. Brief visualisation of perfect sight picture and perfect trigger release.
  3. Empty pause
  4. Raise head to look at target, unfocused.
  5. Begin raise, inward chest breath through nose. Raise to height above target
  6. Shoulder remains relaxed and lowered
  7. Exhale through mouth, lowering begins, taking up first stage as the pistol descends
  8. Continuing exhale, pick up sights above target, follow down to aiming area loosely focused on sight picture or back of hand.
  9. Settle into area of aim, shoulders down, breathing paused
  10. Intense focus in on foresight. Increase trigger pressure to point of shot release and beyond
  11. Continue to focus on foresight, reset to correct picture if required and call shot
  12. Finish exhale, return gun to table

It is fascinating to see the impact that codifying and examining their shot process can have on a pistol shooter, particularly for those who have been shooting for a while but haven’t really thought about their process before. Generally, the first iteration is brief and superficial. Then after discussion with a coach they begin to dig into each element and comments include ‘Oh, I didn’t realise I was doing that’ and ‘So that’s why I do that’ or ‘So that’s why I should be doing that’.

It’s a bit like writing computer code for a robot to execute. In fact, that is in some ways exactly what we are trying to achieve – a series of pre-programmed actions that can be performed without thought (i.e. subconsciously) to deliver a consistent and repeatable outcome – a good shot.

So do you know what your shot process is?